How do you find a properly qualified home inspector? One would think this should be easy – after all, how difficult could it be with so many guys out there calling themselves home inspectors?
Unfortunately, a big problem that many home buyers aren’t even aware of is that the home inspection industry in Ontario (and most of Canada) is a completely unregulated one. This means that anyone can and most simply do just call themselves a “home inspector”. Beware of on-line inspector mills and made-up designations many wannabe home inspectors use to lend an air of legitimacy to what they do. For example, Certified Home Inspector is not a provincially recognized designation – but it sure sounds good!
Try to Get Referrals
Many home buyers rely on agent referrals to find them a home inspector. And if you know your agent well and trust that person to have your best interest at heart, this is probably the best way for you to get someone who knows what they’re doing. Many agents will provide their clients with three cards and let them choose. This provides a small degree of arms length to the decision but you still don’t know if the three names you’ve been given are any good. The best time to start looking for a home inspector is before you even make the offer.
Specialized knowledge, training, and communication skills are essential for any home inspector to be effective in finding and imparting the information you need to know.
The time to ask for those referrals is right when you begin working with an agent in the search for your perfect home. This gives you an opportunity to do your own due diligence. Be sure to ask friends, relatives, and colleagues who may have recently purchased a home who they used and if they were happy with the inspector. Call the different inspectors you’ve been given and ask some pertinent questions. If you’re not happy with the answers, go to an established and recognized home inspection association where you can search for qualified inspectors. Two such associations, where you can quantify an inspectors credentials, are the Professional Home & Property Inspectors of Canada (PHPIC.ca) and the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI.com).
An Unregulated Industry
A reputable home inspector will have extensive training and experience as well as belong to one or both of the recognized industry associations noted above. It stands to reason then that those with no formal training and limited experience are less than qualified to help consumers with the biggest purchase decision of their lives. Specialized knowledge, training, and communication skills are essential for any home inspector to be effective in finding and imparting the information you need to know.
Things to Look For
Recognized designations include National Certificate Holder (NCH) which is soon to become National Home Inspector (NHI), Registered Home Inspector (RHI), and Professional Home and Property Inspector (PHPI). Inspectors with one or more of these designations tend to be industry leaders. These are the inspectors with quantifiable credentials, experience, and training.
Being a member of PHPIC and/or OAHI also means strict adherence to a code of conduct, following an industry recognized standard of practice, and keeping abreast of what you need to know through ongoing professional development. A professional/reputable home inspector will also work full time as a home inspector and should be properly insured for errors and omissions. A typical home inspection should take about 30 to 40 minutes of outside time plus another three hours inside and cost around $450 to $500 for the average house.
Less than qualified inspectors are frequently part-time, typically charge less and finish in less time. They rarely, if ever, attend industry functions and training. They may or may not have some basic courses. Their prices also tend to fluctuate with each inspection (depending on how busy they are and what they think they can get). They may not get on roofs or open electrical panels – in fact, some experienced inspectors won’t do these things either so be sure to ask.
What You Can Do
First, figure out what’s most important to you: the best inspection or the best price – you really can’t have both. Assuming you want the best inspection, insist on only a qualified home inspector. Make sure your real estate agent knows you don’t want to compromise on the home inspection and then do your due diligence. Get the word out by telling everyone you know who may be buying a house that they need to be careful with who they hire to inspect it. Finally, join our petition and let the Ontario government know that you want better consumer protection when it comes to buying a home.